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Advancing the Discussion on Beckett’s Theatrical Aesthetics: from Knowlson’s Artistic Vision to McMullan’s Embodied Vision

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2019, 32(3), pp.109-134
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Published : December 31, 2019

Lee, Jooyeup 1

1University of Reading

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Other than publishing the authorized biography of Samuel Beckett, James Knowlson’s contribution to Beckett Studies consists in directing the critical focus of his generation from Beckett’s published text and its interpretation toward Beckett’s artistic vision as well as the aesthetic effects of Beckett’s theatre. Knowlson has called attention to the subtle, intricate and reverberant multi-sensorial quality of Beckett’s theatre while staying wary of theorizing in “neatness of identifications.” In so doing, Knowlson prioritizes the aesthetic blueprint in the artist’s mind over the theoretical interpretation based on the published text, sometimes facing criticism for his apparent lack of objectivity as well as his apparent defying of the usual distinction between the artistic mind and its textual output. This alleged marked multi-sensorial quality of Beckett’s theatre, so closely interwoven between the senses to the extent of undermining text-based criticism, is further scrutinized by Anna McMullan in her Performing Embodiment in Samuel Beckett’s Drama, in which she explores alternative modes of vision intrinsic to Beckett’s intricately multi-sensorial theatre in contrast with Knowlson’s ‘artistic vision’ which objectively surveys such intimate aesthetic landscape in Beckett’s theatre. Further, based on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body, McMullan analyzes Beckett’s specific experiments throughout his dramatic works of various modes of such alternative ‘embodied’ vision. Her argument foregrounds the way that Beckett’s theatrical aesthetics inseparably interrelates the problems of seeing and writing and creatively exploits that very tension between them.

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